NASHUA — Presidential candidate Kamala Harris came to the first-in-the-nation primary state Wednesday with her own policy agenda but also the Democratic front runner Joe Biden very much on her mind.
During her third visit to New Hampshire, the California senator spoke out on gun violence, teacher pay and climate change but she also didn’t miss an opportunity to toss some barbs at former Vice President Biden, who held a commanding lead in the polls over his 21 rivals.
One reporter asked if she tired of hearing she would make a good running mate to Biden.
“If people want to speculate about running mates, I encourage that, because I think that Joe Biden would be a great running mate,” Harris said after her town hall forum at Girls Inc. in the city.
Top members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently said a Biden-Harris tandem would be a “dream ticket” if Biden holds on to become the nominee in his third run for President.
“As vice president, he’s proven that he knows how to do the job,” Harris added.
A former California attorney general, Harris also parted company with Biden about the 1994 federal crime bill and whether it led to mass incarceration of people of color.
“That 1994 crime bill, it did contribute to mass incarceration in our country. It encouraged and was the first time that we had a federal three strikes law,” Harris said. “It funded the building of more prisons in the states. So I disagree, sadly.”
Biden supported the crime bill President Clinton signed into law and defended it during a house party in Nashua on Tuesday.
“Folks, let’s get something straight, 92 out of every 100 prisoners who end up behind bars are in a state prison, not a federal prison. This idea that the crime bill generated mass incarceration, it did not generate mass incarceration,” Biden had said.
He said the measure spent $10 billion on crime prevention including paying for more police in communities.
In remarks at the forum, Harris said that it is time to stand up, restore truth and justice and fight for optimism in America.
“I believe this is a moment in time where we must, and leaders must, speak the truth,” Harris said.
“The nation needs a leader that can do more than give a pretty speech but rather someone with a proven ability to fight and win, she said.
“We are better than this,” she said. “ … As we march toward 2020, let us not buy what some people are trying to sell.”
She criticized President Donald Trump for creating a national crisis when he passed a tax bill that critics describe as only benefiting the top 1 percent, focusing on self service rather than public service and creating a crisis of confidence with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Harris was open to discussing the possibility of increasing the number of seats on the U.S. Supreme Court and potentially applying term limits.
The economy of America is not working for the nation’s working people, said Harris, adding nearly half of American families cannot afford a $400 unexpected expense.
Although people are working, many are employed at two or three jobs to pay the bills, she said, explaining that in 99 percent of the counties in America, a minimum wage, full-time worker cannot afford a one-bedroom, market-rate apartment.
Harris explained her proposal to amend the tax code that would allow households that make less than $100,000 a year to receive up to $6,000 a year in tax credits — to collect at $500 a month. This could be funded when Trump’s 2017 tax law is repealed, she contended.
“We are a society that pretends to care about education, but not so much the education of other people’s children,” said the California senator. With teachers making 11 percent less than similar college-educated professionals, she intends on closing the teacher pay gap, which she said is about $13,500 a year, on average.
Leaders in Washington have failed to implement reasonable gun safety laws, including universal background checks, said Harris, announcing her plan to take executive action to ban the import of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles into the country if she’s elected President.
“I fully intend to win this election,” she said while being greeted with applause. “Fight we must and fight we will … We are going to need to have someone on that stage who has the proven ability to successfully prosecute the case against this administration.”
However, Nina McLaughlin, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement that as badly as Harris wants to stand out, she is just another face in the crowd looking to touch on something that voters want.
“Good luck differentiating Kamala Harris from the still growing pack of 2020 wannabees,” wrote McLaughlin. “Kamala is trying to outdo the extremist field by calling for pipedream proposals like the Green New Deal, a proposal that would hit Granite Staters hard ...”
State Rep. Latha Mangipudi of Nashua said it is a special moment when a female candidate for president — a brown, vocal, feisty, and bold Democrat — can visit Girls, Inc., and seek support for her candidacy.
Now is the time to fight for equality and social justice, said Mangipudi.
“Let us all join together and campaign for what is right — universal brotherhood, and always know love always elevates humankind,” she said.
Alderman Shoshanna Kelly joined Harris on stage saying the second African American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate provides young girls with the hope that someday this nation may have a female commander in chief.
“What impressed me most was her frankness,” Kelly said of Harris, adding she fought tax cuts and repeatedly asks the tough questions.